Lot feeding reaches new heights for sixth quarter

30 May 2024
There were 1,354,747 cattle on feed during the March 2024 quarter. Pic: AgriShots
An article by  Natasha Lobban

The number of grain fed cattle in Australia reached a record high of 1.3 million head in the March quarter – the sixth consecutive lift - according to a report published on Thursday by the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA). 

According to the latest MLA Lot Feeding Brief the number of cattle on feed reached 1,354,747 head breaking last quarter’s record high. This record has been supported by accompanying records in QLD and SA. 

ALFA President, Barb Madden said that positive trading conditions over the first quarter of 2024 had been the largest driver of increased cattle entering feedlots. 

“Quarterly averages of feed grain and feeder steer prices have provided for supportive market conditions for cattle placement in the lot feeding sector,” Mrs Madden said. 

Total numbers on feed increased by 60,216 head, or 4.7% compared to December 2023 with QLD, VIC, SA and WA rising by 7%, 14.4%, 11.3% and 1.7% respectively, while NSW numbers dropped 2% across the quarter. 

National capacity remained stable at 1.59 million head while utilisation rates rose by 4%, to 85% in the March quarter. 

“Following increased utilisation, turnoff figures lifted 14% to 761,550 head with every state having higher turnoff quarter-on-quarter,” Mrs Madden said. 

MLA’s Senior Market Information Analyst, Erin Lukey, said that the supply of feeder steers had been a factor influencing the numbers of cattle on feed. 

“Throughput in MLA’s feeder steer indicator lifted 13% on last quarter, resulting in the largest throughput since March 2018,” Ms Lukey said.  

“Individually, most states experienced lifts to feeder steer transactions, with only WA reducing their throughput when compared to last quarter and the corresponding quarter last year. 

"A softening of feed grain prices over the reporting period, paired with feeder prices remaining relatively low, have supported more desirable margins for lot feeders.” 

Australian grain-fed meat exports have remained stable for the first quarter of 2024, with 83,949 tonnes of Australian grain-fed beef exported.  

While quarter-on-quarter export numbers have remained level, grain-fed beef export tonnages represented 30% of all beef exports during the quarter, up 2% from the previous reporting period. 

"This trend is expected in the foreseeable future as current cattle on feed move through their feed programs,” Ms Lukey said. 

The National Accredited Feedlot Survey is administered by Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and published each quarter. 

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